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The price paid. Principal of restored Slovyansk school about the war, children and teaching. Part 1

The price paid. Principal of restored Slovyansk school about the war, children and teaching. Part 1

Peace and quite were restored in liberated Slovyansk almost a year and a half ago but three months under militants' (Igor Girkin’s faction) rule left scars on the locals' souls which start bleeding at painful memories.

About 70 % of Slovyansk residents who were against the ideas of “Russian world” turned into hostages of those who were waving Russian flags shouting: “Come, Putin, come!”

Those who were aganst this have two questions left, they are connected with seizure and with liberation of the town.

When militants seized the local police station on April 12, 2014, people were waiting for Ukrainian special forces which would come and throw the militants out of it: “There were dozens of local outcasts among them (the militants), they wren't professional, they didn't know how to fight. Why couldn't the authorities localize everything then and there? Yes, a couple of neighbouring houses would have been damaged, but the price paid would have been a couple of houses or destruction all around the Donbas...”

Special forces never came. The police were ordered not to resist.

And then professionals headed by Girkin arrived in Donetsk: “Why was Girki's convoy allowed to leave Slovyansk? There isn't a single village between Kostyantynivka and Donetsk, why weren't they shot dead there? There weren't any civilians in the convoy, just militants and their families. What would be a higher price to pay: several civilians or thousands that have been killed all around the Donbas..."
Despite these and many other questions to Ukrainian authorities, the majority of Slovynsk residents connect their lives only with Ukraine.

Of course, they do not chant: “Glory to the nation! Death to our enemies!” (a popular nationalistic chant), but they are just building new life on their territory.

This territory is in their minds is an indispensable part of Ukraine, meaning that it just cannot be a part of any other country or a “young republic”.

They do not relax, they still find it hard to believe in ceasefire and they are still afraid of shellings. However, they build houses, bring up their children, teach them, take them to extra-curriculum activities and send them schools with the Ukrainian language of studying.

Kids on playgrounds braid bracelets from colourful gums, draw the Ukrainian flag and write the word “Peace”.

Still, a lot of them have fears which kids who live in other regions of Ukraine have never experienced. They are scared to stay without their parents for a long time. It is so scary when the  town is being shelled and only your parents can protect you.

It has been a year and a half since the town was shelled for the last time but some children still need psychologists' help.

Psychologists  show them how to build “happy towns” of sand, suggest them to draw their fears and then children destroy these drawings (the fear must be destroyed in art therapy).

Psychologists from Slovyansk Pedagogical University showed me photos of some of these drawings. There is a blown up building, fire and a Ukrainian soldier who is holding a paper with the word: “Enough”, there are also words: “I'm afraid that the war will come back”.

It took a very long time to burn this drawing as the child had applied too much paint while painting the explosion — the girl had painted her fear very meticulously and scrupulously.

Semenivka was seriously damaged during the hoslities, a lot of residential houses were completely destroyed. Pro-Russian fighters seized several building s which were located on strategically good positions  – the psychiatric hospital and the only school in the settlement.

All the seized buildings were seriously damaged and had to be rebuilt afterwards. The school was restored in summer 2014. One of its wings was given to a nursery school which had been in a separate building before the war (it had been redecorated nicely, but it is impossible to restore it now, after explosions).

All the subjects in Semenivka school have been taught exclusively in Ukrainian since 1998.
Today the building is decorated with Ukrainian symbols, national colours and there are portraits of outsnanding Ukrainians, including Stepan Bandera, in the corridors.

The united nursery, primary and secondary school are now named the Educational Complex #1.
We talked to Serhiy Borysenko, principal. He told us about the period of the occupation, about the reasons which made this war possible and together we tried to understand what we all have to do now...

Yelena Cherednychenko for UT. Life.

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